Touch down in Dubrovnik, a magnificent walled city on the cusp of the Mediterranean Sea nicknamed the Pearl of the Adriatic.
A wander between the City Walls is a good place to start your adventure in Dubrovnik. Baroque-style buildings and medieval walls serve as a constant reminder of the fascinating local history, which dates back to the Middle Ages. It’s overlooked by Mt Srđ, a shallow mountain that you can easily hike up. If you don’t feel like walking, hop in the cable car, which will whizz you to the top. On the outskirts, northwest of the Old Town, lies Lapad: a slab of Croatian coast with pebbled beaches backed by hilly forest. Stop for a bite to eat here at one of the many quality restaurants serving decadent dishes and fresh seafood. Try the national signature of black risotto (Crni rižot) – the squid ink gives it that dark colour. Dessert? Rožata is a must; this custard pudding could be the sister of crème brulée, deliciously creamy and best washed down with a glass of rakija, Croatian brandy. Another essential on the itinerary should be Lokrum, which is a short boat ride away from the Old Town. Tree-lined paths will guide you through most of the island, with pockets of coastline making great swimming spots. Don’t miss the Dead Sea Lake smack bang in the middle; a dip is a welcome refresher from the smouldering Croatian heat. Plus, despite the sea’s name, the water is so clear, you can see right to the cobbled bottom. Want to feel like Dr Dolittle? Fluffy bunnies and peacocks are as common in Dubrovnik as London pigeons, and they’re not at all shy. If you’re after a moment of quiet, Cavtat is only a short drive away and steeped in Croatian culture. Stradun, the main street in the Old Town, is the best place to nab a souvenir; Elaphiti, a three-island archipelago, is a great getaway; and the 13th-century Rector’s Palace has been turned to a museum of local culture.